Arthurian literature may be a worldwide cottage industry, but Cornwell, author of the Sharpe series of historical military adventures (Sharpe's Battle, etc.) stands out from the crowd with this exemplary kickoff to a trilogy about the legendary warrior-king. Cornwell's Arthur is fierce, dedicated and complex, a man with many problems, most of his own making. His impulsive decisions sometimes have tragic ramifications, as when he lustfully takes Guinevere instead of the intended Ceinwyn, alienating his friends and allies and inspiring a bloody battle. The secondary characters are equally unexpected, and are ribboned with the magic and superstition of the times. Merlin impresses as a remarkable personage, a crafty schemer fond of deceit and disguise. Lancelot is portrayed as a warrior-pretender, a dishonest charmer with dark plans of his own; by contrast, Galahad seems the noble soldier of purpose and dedication. Guinevere, meanwhile, no gentle creature waiting patiently in the moonlight, has designs and plots of her own. The story of these characters and others is narrated forcefully and with dry wit by Derfel Cadarn, one of Arthur's warriors, who later becomes a monk. Cornwell knows his history--the battle scenes are particularly fine--but not once does it get in the way of people of flesh and blood meeting on a darkened field of combat. Author tour. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/29/1996 Release date: 05/01/1996 Genre: Fiction
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